Adventures in font mishaps: Iñupiaq “dictionary”

Now that I’m back from my Alaska Native Language Center archives trip (more on that in an upcoming post – the first archive where I’ve ever seen a shampoo bottle in the stacks), I’ve got some catching up to do. First off, I want to post about the by now infamous Webster’s Online dictionaries (not to be confused with Merriam-Webster, the reputable guys). After Jangari’s posts (#1, #2 and #3) about the ridiculous Webster’s Online Dictionary by Philip M. Parker, I couldn’t help but look up what copyrighted Iñupiaq materials might have been lifted. Sure enough, Parker has an online Inupiatun dictionary, an Inupiatun-English thesaurus for purchase, etc. [1]

What’s especially funny in this case is that Parker didn’t bother with fonts, so his Iñupiaq dictionary contains a lot of letters that don’t really exist in the current Iñupiaq orthography (and in many cases not in the phoneme inventory at all). It’s pretty obvious that the material was copied from legitimate sources such as Alaskool’s Iñupiaq dictionary because of the special font Alaskool produced. Their pre-Unicode font involved remapping keys on a standard US English keyboard. The Iñupiaq letter ġ (IPA /ʁ/) was mapped to the English b key, for example. Parker, however, either didn’t manage to get his hands on the Iñupiaq font or it didn’t occur to him another font might be necessary – my money’s on the latter – so his dictionary is chock-full of errors. The word aġnaq ‘woman’, for example, appears as abnaq in his dictionary. The only possible way he could have arrived at grossly and systematically misspelled words like this is if he took them from an online source using the Iñupiaq font.

What I can’t figure out, though, is why one lone Inuktitut word appears in Parker’s Iñupiaq dictionary. He’s got ᑭᖑᐃᖓᒃ (/kiŋuiŋak/, but I’m quite sure Parker’s got that wrong, too) listed as the Iñupiaq word for ‘peace’ and that’s just bizarre. Regardless of whether you think Iñupiaq is a separate language or just Inuktitut with a different name, Iñupiaq doesn’t use the Inuktitut abugida and never has. How on earth did he link ᑭᖑᐃᖓᒃ to Iñupiaq? The Iñupiaq cognate is qiñuiññaq (qiñuiñaq in Alaskool’s; probably dialectal gemination variation), and while I can see the similarity, it would never be written in anything but modified Latin script. Then again, when you’re busy pumping out books every ten minutes, you don’t have time to check whether or not you’ve even got the basics of your topic correct.

[1] Iñupiatun being an alternate name for Iñupiaq; it’s simply the similative case of ‘Iñupiaq’.